Lionhead Fish: Characteristics, care, reproduction and more….

The Goldfish Oranda or lionhead fish has become one of the most popular goldfish fish in the world, due to the size that the cap of its head can reach.

The cap (also called wen) is one of the weakest points of its anatomy and requires special care as it could attract diseases. It can also grow to cover its eyes and affect its vision and even blind it.


      • Phylum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae Genus: Carassius Species: auratus auratus


The Lionhead Fish’ Main Characteristics 

The Lionhead fish is a species of goldfish , from Asian countries such as China and Japan. In his native Japan he is considered «the king of goldfish.» The main traits of this particular species are described in detail below.

This is an ornamental fish of  a striking beauty and a great trajectory, like the real kori fish, also from Asia.

The Lionhead is considered the Chinese version of the Ranchú with which they are generally confused because of their similar body and colors.

But what makes the Japanese lionhead fish different is precisely its head, in which a kind of hood grows that gives it a more bulky appearance in relation to the ranchú.

In addition to this, it can also be distinguished by the curvature of its back that is a little less pronounced and finally its dimensions are larger than those of the ranchu


Its head has a sort of mane similar to that of the king Midas fish, although in this case it has more similarity with a crown than with a mane.

The lionhead fish (which is not considered a good swimmer), tends to swim tilted slightly forward, although there are experts who say that this position when swimming is due to the lack of dorsal fin on the spine, while others think it is due to the head’s weight and body’s shape, more exactly as a result of the location of its bladder.

Size and Weight

Lion-head fish can measure up to 21 centimeters in length, being quite large, although the overall average length is 18 centimeters, with slightly smaller specimens of 15 centimeters.

Other Traits

Carassius gibelio auratus, lacks dorsal fin but all other fins have them in pair including the caudal fin that is splitted in two.

A slightly rounded shape can be seen on the bottom of the fins. Its body is short and rounded, with some lines that soften its figure and the surface of the back is completely smooth.

While they are small it’s difficult to notice the disproportion between the head compared to the rest of the body.

However as they grow, so will their head giving them their characteristic appearance. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn about this interessting topic.

Colorations and Sub varieties

Virtually all the usual goldfish colorations are easily found in the lionhead. There is even a kind of version of the oranda red cup (white body, red head).

Curiously, it’s very difficult to find blank specimens since in China it is the color of death, and therefore they have been withdrawn from the breeding processes.

Let’s watch and learn

The Lionhead Fish’ Origin

Lionhead fish are a very old variety of goldfish, which closely resembles its ancestor, the egg-shaped goldfish. They were first raised in China, seeking to evoke the image of the mythological character «dog-lion» or Shishi in Mandarin.

They arrived in Japan around the 17th and 18th centuries, where a native lion head fish was created with a more rounded shape and a less pronounced head growth than the Chinese variety.

Asian culture is closely linked to the breeding of exotic species of fish, since these types of animals are very appreciated by them.

They consider them bearers of good fortune for those who know how to dedicate the care they deserve and have managed to develop incredible varieties of Freshwater fish like the Japanese Lionhead goldfish.

What Do Lionhead Fish Feed On?

Lionhead fish are omnivorous, so they can be fed both frozen food and live food when raised in captivity. They also welcome commercial food that comes in presentations of scales or granules. When it comes to live food, you can offer:

    • Adult artemias.
    • California worm.
    • Bloodworms.
    • Daphnia.
    • Mosquito larvae.
    • Fruit flies.
    • Tubifex.
    • Crab.
    • Shrimp.
    • Ostend.

They will also willingly accept vegetable-based pastas. To supplement their diet they can also be provided with some pea or pieces of vegetables cooked from time to time, such as cucumber, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, which will help them have better digestion and avoid blockages.

They should be maintained in a varied and adequate diet but not excessive, as they usually suffer from a swim bladder. There are those who recommend one fast day a week so that the fish can have easier digestion.

Their diet should contain fats and carbohydrates that provide energy, as well as fiber that will help their digestive system run smoothly.

Most importantly, it’s to offer them a varied diet so they don’t get bored and don’t have stomach problems.

Once your lionhead fish gets used to eating vegetables, it will be very difficult, not to mention impossible, to keep plants alive in the aquarium as this fish has an uncontrollable appetite and will devour them completely.

When you first offer a food to your lion’s head fish, it’s common for him to be reluctant and refuse to try, however don’t be discouraged and keep introducing this food into the aquarium until he gets used to it. You will see that then you just won’t  be able to resist using this product.

Let’s watch and learn


How Do Lionhead Fish Reproduce?

Reproducing the Japanese lion’s head is not difficult; you just have to follow the same directions you would with any goldfish variety. However, before doing so, it is good to know what to do with fry in the future, as they are living beings who deserve respectful treatment and a responsible owner.

In addition to this, you should know that breeding the lion’s head fish is a task that deserves time and money, not to mention the commitment that involves getting a new home for the fry where they can develop and grow up.

For a higher success, as well as to avoid malformations in fish, it is better not to mix species with each other.

That is, if you have a Lionhead fish in the same aquarium as a telescope goldfish  or any other species, it is better to separate the breeding pair from the same species so that they reproduce.

Keep in mind that crosses between species can often be feasible; although it is best for experts to take care of these crosses, as well as to evaluate the genetic load and the probabilities of mortality and deformation without having syndromes or other consequences that could arise as poor vision or low resistance to a certain environment.

Their reproductive process is characterized by being external and having a prior courtship before the eggs’ spawning, although this courtship is not as elegant as in the case of the rainbow fish.

Fish Sex

The first thing we should know is the sex of the fish and know how to distinguish them from each other, in order to cross them successfully. Before the first year of age it will be very difficult to distinguish sex well, but when they are ready to reproduce such a task will become easier.

When the male has reached a mature sexual age, he develops small white spots on the gills and pectoral fins that look like salt grains, known as breeding tubers.

In addition to these white spots on the gills, the male of mature sexual age develops a different behavior and begins his courtship towards the female.

Courtship consists of hitting his head lightly but insistently in the female’s abdomen in order to stimulate her to release the eggs that she will fertilize later, but which can also be fertilized by two or more males.

However, care must be taken, since this procession can last for hours and even days, leaving the female exhausted and stressed even causing death if she does not get a place where she can hide from the male and rest.

Males and females lion-head fish have only one hole in the back of their body, which fulfills the functions of both: anus and reproductive system. In males this hole has a concave shape inward, while in females it is concave outward.

Finally, adult females can be recognized as they tend to be fatter and wider than males, which are usually more slender in the abdomen area.

Let’s watch

Best Aquariums for Lionhead Fish Reproduction

When you decide to have baby lionfish, you can make groups of parents in three ways, namely:

    • Forming a male and female couple.
    • A trio with two females and one male.
    • With multiple couples.

Of course, the method of reproduction in pairs requires a lot of space, with a tank of around 30 gallons (115 liters) being enough. An elongated fish tank of little height will be the best option to handle the fish.

Keep in mind that the lion’s head fish can be reproduced in smaller spaces; but this is not advisable since the female needs to escape from the male’s constant harassment.

The method of multiple pair requires a lot of space, and is generally carried out by specialized people who are dedicated to the reproduction and breeding of fish because they have very large water ponds.

In this method, it’s recommended that twice as many males as females be placed, although this is not a limitation.

You should include enough plants that can protect the eggs and future fry, especially if you have a community aquarium, as other fish sometimes even the parents will want to devour the eggs.

Let’s watch

Aquarium for Eggs

You can use two options to take care of the eggs; the first is to leave them in the same aquarium where the parents made the fertilization, of course removing the adult specimens.

This method has the advantage that the fry won’t suffer from the stress caused from transferring them to another aquarium. Yet, the parents’ aquarium usually has excrement and sperm in the decomposition, so that the levels of ammonia endanger the life and development of the small eggs and the future fry.

The second option is to transfer the fertilized eggs to one or more aquariums that will function as incubators and must be filled while filling the parents ‘aquarium so that the pH and water hardness levels will be similar and don’t affect the offsprings’ development.

The advantage of this process is that the water is cleaner, increasing the chances of success. However, when transferring the eggs, some may be lost, remaining attached to plants, glasses or even filters.

In addition to the fact that eggs can be distributed in several aquariums, in this way if there is any disease, all the lion’s head offspring will not be lost.

An incubator aquarium with a capacity of 20 gallons (around 75 liters) of water, can easily house between 500 and 750 fertilized eggs.

Manual Spawning Procedure in Goldfish

To regulate the water’s temperature, the first thing is to reduce it gradually and gradually in several days as if autumn and winter began. The lion’s head fish should be kept in an aquarium with a temperature of around 10 ° C for a total of 7 weeks.

Then, you must increase the temperature little by little until it reaches 15 ºC, making the lion-head fish believe that spring is beginning. After a couple of weeks, the temperature should continue to rise gradually until it reaches 23 ºC to simulate the beginning of summer.


When making these changes in temperature you must be careful, since you shouldn’t raise or lower more than 2 ° C a day because a sharp change in water temperature can generate a lot of stress on the lion’s head fish and cause death.

Spawning and fertilization

When the lions head fish is ready for reproduction, you will notice a change in its behavior, as they will start swimming in groups of 2 or 3 individuals, in case of having several fish in a single tank. The males will also start chasing and harassing the females so that they separate from the group and go to the plants.

Once the female releases the eggs, the male immediately proceeds to expel the sperm neccesary to fertilize them. Then they will descend until they adhere to the plants or some other surface where they will remain immobile until the fry are born.

Generally, reproduction takes place in the early morning, and may extend during the day and even last several days. A single female is able to drop between 5,000 and 10,000 eggs in a single lying, although not all will become fertilized. Moreover, if they aren’t separated from the parents in time they will be eaten by them.

Fertilized Eggs

The color of the fertilized eggs is a light yellow but opaque shade, while those that have not been fertilized acquire a white color after 24 hours after the female has laid them. In addition the latter usually fill with fungi becoming essential to be taken out of the aquarium.

Let’s keep learning


Feeding Lionhead Fish’ Fry

Particular care is required for lionhead fish when they are very small. For lion’s headfish to grow healthy and strong, they require a rich and varied diet.

During the first few days, an excellent food that can be offered is ground cooked yolk, although it must be given occasionally and in very small portions so that the aquarium’s water doesn’t get very dirty. They may also be offered very small pieces of commercial flakes.lionhead fish; earthworms can be used to feed lionhead fish frys

Many people prefer to feed the little minnows lively food such as baby shrimp, earthworms, tubifex and bloodworm, all grounded very well as if it were porridge. You can also give them special commercial food for fry.

But similarly, there are those who prefer not to use live food by claiming that some fungus or infection can be introduced into the water, having terrible consequences for fry.

The young deserve to be fed 3 to 6 times a day for the first weeks of life, at regular intervals in the morning, afternoon and evening. At night it is important to leave the light on while they are feeding, as their vision is very limited. After each meal, it is important to clean the water from the excess food to avoid contamination that may cause diseases in the lion’s headfish.

Infusions for Lionhead fish’ Frys

There is a frys’ feeding method that is very popular among English-speaking breeders, based on the preparation of infusions. It’s very easy and will provide the young with a lot of nutrients and best of all; it can be done at home.

To do this, you must first fill three quarters of a jar or container with water that has been boiled and rested until cooled.

Then a banana or banana peel is added, although you can also use 3 or 4 lettuce leaves preferably those that are battered and that are the outer leaves.

Leave the jar or container without a lid in a sunny place outside the house, since its smell will become just unbearable.

In the first days, the water will be cloudy and its smell very stinky. After two days the water will become clearer, and although the smell will not be more pleasant it will have a sweetness that will be easy to detect.

To add this preparation to the aquarium water, turkey filler, a needleless syringe or a spoon can be used. It is kept for 3 days maximum, so if you want to feed this infusion to your fry you must take your own forecasts and prepare this infusion every 2 or 3 days.

Lionhead fish’ Care

To provide this fish a suitable home it’s  necessary to take into account certain considerations. The first of them is that it is a slow fish, so it is better not to place it with faster and more competitive fish, since they will leave the lion’s headfish without food.

In addition it’s really important to point out, that lion heads are very peaceful fish that can have very good relations with almost any species.

Moreover, because of their large head extra cares are required for the lion’s headfish since their breathing may be affected, which is why you have to make sure that the water is properly oxygenated.

In this same order of ideas, lionheads require a lot of swimming space, (despite not doing it very well), so you must have at least a one 150 liter aquarium per pair to comfortably house them.

. But also this fish likes to live among several tank mates, so it’s  advisable to have between 3 and 4 specimens for each aquarium.

The water temperature should range between 15ºC and 22º C, while pH should be between 7.0 and 7.5 to prevent diseases associated with fungi and bacteria from proliferating in your lionheads.

In terms of decoration, it’s essential to have plants on the aquarium’s surface and some others planted on the substrate, in addition to having stones, rocks and caves that give refuge to your new pets.

Like most fish, lionhead fish need normal illumination and light goes out when the sun goes down to simulate night. Only the frys require leaving light on at night but this is until they fully develop their vision. We invite you to read  our article goldfish, to learn about  other species of this family.

Let’s watch them again


Differences between Lionhead Fish and Ranchus

There are three different types of Ranchus: Chinese ranchú, Japanese ranchú and American ranchú.  Lion head fish belong to the latter group although they are all closely related. There are some traits that allow you to distinguish them.

For example the Chinese ranchú has a bulging head with a slightly more compact and round body. In turn, the American ranchú has the steepest curvature of the back while its body is narrower and the head more bulging, which makes it credited with its name of lion-headed fish, since such a trait is quite similar to the feline’s mane..

Finally, Japanese ranchu is distinguished from the Chinese variety because in the latter species the caudal fin is more pronounced.

But despite these differences they also have similarities, such as that the back’s curvature  which  has a sudden drop of a few centimeters at the rear, almost in the caudal fin, which generates that it has an angle pointing down to 45 degrees.

Likewise the fins are small and a little square. In many specimens the head begins to grow at two years of age, a process which sometimes extends until 3 years

Its colors are the same as a regular goldfish, including a species such as the oranda red cup, with the white body and the red head. But curiously it is difficult to get the lion’s headfish in white, since this color represents death in Chinese culture, so it has been removed from the breeding and crossing processes.

Let’s learn more about ranchu goldfish


Common Diseases in Lionhead fish

Many of you will wonder why the lion-head fish is at the bottom of the aquarium without moving or is facing up. Well, when you see that, it’s because your fish is sick.

One of the most common diseases of these fish is the swim bladder.

Swim bladder

This disease is caused by the abuse of food we are giving. Goldfish need to do digestion well since they love to eat and they could spend a lot of time eating.

That is why it is recommended to give them small amounts and in some foods soak the feed in water so that they can digest it better.


We will realize since our fish begins to swim very slowly, almost without strength to the aquarium’s surface.  It could be due to lack of oxygen, so it would be advisable to separate the fish into an individual fish tank and change the water every few minutes.

Freshwater Plague

Many of the diseases are generated by dismissing or providing little care to the aquarium; Lionhead fish need a weekly water change. The first symptoms of this disease will be spots that will appear on the body, and their colors will be more muted.

Rotten Fins

The fish will swim with only one fin that can be affected by several reasons: a bad diet or some mishap that has had with the decorations of the aquarium.

Let’s watch and learn


Deja un comentario